Plenty of top-notch players figure to be back, including pitchers Mark Prior, Kerry Wood, Carlos Zambrano and Greg Maddux as well as first
baseman Derrek Lee, third baseman Aramis Ramirez and center fielder Corey Patterson. Right fielder Sammy Sosa is also under contract for next
season, but the Cubs might try to deal him this winter.
Still, there is always turnover in baseball, and it appears that left fielder Moises Alou and starting pitcher Matt Clement will seek work
elsewhere. The North Siders need to figure out if they will be able to afford shortstop Nomar Garciaparra and whether they want to keep second
basemen Mark Grudzielanek or Todd Walker.
They will keep an eye out for a closer after Joe Borowski missed four months of the season with a shoulder injury and replacement LaTroy Hawkins blew nine save opportunities.
While prospect Jason Dubois could be a candidate for left field, the Cubs could make a run at Houston free agent Carlos Beltran if they are
able to trade away Sosa's $17 million salary.
With Clement likely gone, the leading candidate for the fifth starter role is Glendon Rusch, if they re-sign him. But the Cubs also could
look elsewhere to fill that void.
This is general manager Jim Hendry's third offseason of wheeling and dealing, and he usually makes a flurry of deals in mid-December after
coming back from the winter meetings. Sometimes he makes deals that even surprise him. Last year, he wasn't in the market for a first baseman,
but when Lee became available, he pounced on the opportunity.
"You know the way we do business," Hendry said. "You can't foresee what's going to happen over the winter. If the opportunity unfolds to
make us better, I'll pursue that."